Orlando City has won four straight and kept its faint playoff hopes alive for another week with a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact in front of more than 35,000 fans at the Citrus Bowl. The unlikely hero was Seb Hines, who scored the game winner with less than ten minutes left in regulation.
Things started off with a scary midair collision between starting defenders Tommy Redding and Rafael Ramos. Both were stretchered off and Ramos went to the hospital to deal with a severe laceration on his face after a clash of heads left both players woozy.
So Adrian Heath was forced to make two substitutions very early on and despite that, a goal against that shouldn’t have counted, and the appearance of Didier Drogba, the Lions prevailed.
Here are my player grades from Orlando City’s fourth consecutive victory and first over a Canadian team this season:
GK, Tally Hall, 7 – Hall only faced two shots on goal but he was alert to the danger all night, coming out early to keep a ball away from Ambroise Oyongo from becoming a problem, stopping a shot from Johan Venegas late in the game, and catching or punching several crosses away from the danger area as the Impact pushed for a late equalizer. Stopped a dangerous ball in the 43rd minute, only to see Dominic Oduro kick it out of his grasp and in for a goal, which is kind of against the rules, but whatevs.
D, Brek Shea, 8 – Shea was excellent, starting on the left side and shifting over to the right after the injuries sidelined Ramos and Redding. Despite being on his weaker side, Shea caused problems down the right side all evening and mostly took care of his defensive responsibilities. Nearly had goal of the week in the 51st minute but smashed a curling effort off the crossbar from distance.
D, Tommy Redding, N/A – An unfortunate early exit for the young Homegrown Player. Officially left in the 11th minute but was down much earlier than that, getting treatment on the pitch for a long time. Not really enough minutes to make an impact.
D, Aurelien Collin, 8 – The Frenchman cleared everything he got his feet on and played an excellent match. Kept Drogba in check once the Ivorian checked in and was strong in the air. He also moved the ball well all night and helped Orlando keep possession for long spells, particularly in the first half and early in the second half.
D, Rafael Ramos, N/A – Like Redding, his night ended much too soon. Hopefully there are no long-term effects, as the club has two weeks to prepare for New York City FC, and will be without both Brek Shea and Kaká, due to yellow card accumulation.
MF, Servando Carrasco, 8 – Fantastic game for the defensive midfielder. Carrasco broke up plays all over the pitch, filling in for the suspended Cristian Higuita. Higuita’s absence wasn’t even noticeable, which is a huge credit to Servando. Registered four tackles, four interceptions and a clearance, completing 85% of his passes, and helped the backline keep Montreal’s attack in check, along with…
MF, Darwin Ceren, 8 – The Salvadoran was all over the pitch just like his counterpart in the defensive midfield, with six interceptions and three tackles. Narrowly missed a goal in the 27th minute with a rocket from distance. Chipped in a couple of key passes, two crosses and several accurate long balls to go with a team-high 65 passes (completing 84.6%). Another outstanding job by Ceren.
MF, Carlos Rivas, 6 – The Colombian continues to delight with his speed and crossing and utterly disappoint with his shots. None of his four shots were on target but he had a team-high eight crosses and continually bothered the Montreal defense with his pace down whichever wing he was on, drawing several fouls.
MF, Kaká, 7 – The captain seemed just a tad off with his touch at times but was still able to show his quality often. Sent in Carlos Rivas late for what should have been an insurance goal. Only one key pass, no shots and a couple of uncharacteristically heavy touches near the end line, but he was dangerous on crosses, serving five into the box. Did a solid job defensively of staying active and applying pressure.
MF, Lewis Neal, 5.5 – Badly scuffed a shot in the box off a Shea pass in the 13th minute in another underwhelming offensive effort. It was his only shot of the night and he had one key pass. He did manage to complete 91.4% of his passes but made only 35 of them. The Lions seemed to actively avoid his side of the pitch when he swapped spots with Carlos Rivas in the second half, sending the Colombian to the right wing.
F, Cyle Larin, 6.5 – The Canadian was just a touch off much of the night but he did score a goal off a bad Montreal giveaway in the 33rd minute and his presence up top was clearly a concern for the Impact defense. Drew only one foul and he seemed to tire midway through the second half.
D, Luke Boden (11′), 6.5 – A bit of a mixed bag for Luke tonight, with several crucial challenges but also turned the ball over leading to Montreal’s goal and got beat a few times late, allowing the Impact to get some dangerous crosses into the box in search of their equalizer. A workmanlike effort and did well to get the ball back into the box on what eventually became Seb Hines’ game-winning goal.
D, Seb Hines (11′), 8 (MOTM) – Seb returned from a dislocated shoulder suffered last week and made it pay off. He and Collin really owned the defensive third. Hines finished with four interceptions, two tackles, a clearance and a blocked shot, to go along with his 80th-minute winning goal. Completed nearly 85% of his passes and was calm on the ball and with the ball pinging around in the box.
F, Bryan Rochez (69′), 5.5 – Replaced Lewis Neal in the 69th minute and wasn’t terribly involved, seeing his three-game goal-scoring streak come to an end. Rochez was good in holdup play but didn’t complete (or attempt) many passes. Did manage a shot on target and played well defensively, heading away a clearance in the late stages.
Those are my player ratings. Vote below for your Orlando City Man of the Match.
|Other (let us know who in the comments section below)||2|
Orlando City Parts Ways with Captain Mauricio Pereyra
Orlando City and club captain Mauricio Pereyra have agreed to terminate his contract.
Orlando City announced this afternoon that the club and captain Mauricio Pereyra have mutually agreed to terminate his contract. The Uruguayan midfielder leaves the club after four and a half years in purple and two seasons as captain.
“Mauricio has embodied Orlando City since the moment he arrived to the club, and we’re very thankful for everything he has given to us, our fans, and the community,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “His contributions and impact to our organization will be felt for years to come, and we wish him and his family the best of luck in this next chapter of their lives.”
Pereyra originally joined the club on July 30, 2019 after his contract expired with Russian side FC Krasnodar. He made his debut on Aug. 17, 2019 against Minnesota United FC as a Designated Player, coming on at halftime for Robinho. He would go on to make 136 appearances in all competitions (122 starts) and record 10,027 minutes. The midfielder scored seven goals for the Lions and recorded a club record 47 assists.
His 136 appearances are third most in the club’s MLS era, his 121 starts are second, and his 10,027 minutes are third since the club jumped from USL Pro to MLS in 2015.
Following the departure of previous captain Nani after the 2021 MLS season, Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja named Pereyra the club captain. He led his team through an historic cup run in 2022, lifting the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the club’s first-ever major trophy. He captained the team again in 2023, leading the Lions to the MLS Cup playoffs for the fourth straight year and the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second time in that period.
The midfielder signed a new two-year contract on Nov. 23, 2022 that was supposed to keep him in Orlando through the 2024 MLS season. Muzzi used Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to buy down his contract, opening a Designated Player spot for the 2023 season. However, this decision ends his contract a year before its expiration.
“Thank you to everyone for these four years together. It was a pleasure to belong to this family and I am so thankful to every person that works for this club and that has helped this team grow and win titles from their place,” Pereyra said in a club press release. “I was honored and proud to be given the captain’s armband and, of course, thanks to the technical staff and my teammates who helped me to become better as a player. But more so made me feel loved and made me a better person. I’ll miss you, but from this next season and beyond you’ll have one more fan that will wish nothing but the best for you. I love you and thank you.”
The 33-year-old Uruguayan made 38 appearances in his final season for Orlando City, with 34 starts and 2,637 minutes across all competitions. He scored one goal and added 12 assists.
What It Means for Orlando
Pereyra is a significant player in Orlando City history. He was one of the first players signed by Muzzi after the GM’s arrival from FC Dallas and was a key part of the club’s turnaround from doormat to contender. The importance of his place in the team was shown when Pareja named him captain following the 2021 MLS season.
However, the 33-year-old has lost a step since arriving. It was visible as the past two seasons progressed and raised questions as to whether he was the right option in the starting lineup moving forward. The club’s sale of striker Ercan Kara to Turkish side Samsunspor opened up a Designated Player spot that could be used on that position if the club wishes.
While Pereyra was an essential part of the team during his time in Orlando, it seems impossible for him to stay without being in the starting lineup. As captain, he was never going to come off the bench, so leaving the lineup would inevitably mean his departure from the club.
Additionally, Pereyra moved forward this past season into a more unfamiliar role. He started as an eight when he arrived, but was forced into the attacking midfield when Junior Urso left. The club now has the option of moving Urso or Designated Player Martin Ojeda into the starting lineup, or using their now open DP spot on that position.
Lion Links: 12/6/23
Antonio Carlos linked with move to Fluminense, Emily Madril agrees to new contract with the Pride, USWNT beats China, and more.
Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. There is not much new with me, I’ve just been staying busy working at Under Armour and covering high school basketball and wrestling lately. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.
Antonio Carlos Linked with Fluminense
Orlando City center back Antonio Carlos was linked with a move back to Brazil, with Fluminense reportedly close to finalizing a deal to sign him.
Carlos initially joined Orlando on loan from Palmeiras before the 2020 season. Following that season, the club signed him to a three-year contract with an option for an additional year. The 30-year-old has been a key part of Orlando’s defense under Head Coach Oscar Pareja, although Carlos missed some time this past season due to injury.
Emily Madril Agrees to New Contract With the Pride
The Orlando Pride announced that defender Emily Madril has reached an agreement with the club on a new three-year contract through the 2026 NWSL season. Madril just finished her first season with the Pride, making 27 appearances for the club across all competitions and leading all rookies with 1,977 minutes played in the NWSL regular season. She was already signed to a three-year deal through 2025, but the Pride were able to find a way to keep her with the club for another year. Now the club can work on retooling its roster with a back line anchored by Madril and Rafaelle.
MLS 2023 College Showcase Begins Today
Major League Soccer announced the 44 invitees for the 2023 MLS College Showcase. The event will kick off today through Dec. 9 in Phoenix. One local player to keep an eye on is defender Jahlane Forbes out of Wake Forest. Forbes is from Clermont, FL and joined Orlando City’s academy in 2016. He has also played for Orlando City B, making three appearances. Forbes made 19 appearances for Wake Forest in the 2023 season, recording five goals and seven assists. Other top prospects to watch include Louisville defender Josh Jones, High Point’s Jefferson Amaya, and Marshall forward Matthew Bell.
USWNT Beats China in Final Friendly of 2023
The U.S. Women’s National team defeated China 2-1 at Toyota Stadium in its final match of 2023. The USWNT trailed 1-0 at halftime, but bounced back in the second half thanks to a pair of goals and a solid defensive effort. Jaedyn Shaw gave the USWNT its winner in the 79th minute, scoring in her hometown in a memorable moment for the 19-year-old. It was the USWNT’s second win over China this month after winning the first match 3-0 this past Saturday in Fort Lauderdale.
Former Lion Daryl Dike Nears Return with West Brom
After being sidelined with an Achilles injury since March, former Lion Daryl Dike could make his return to West Brom this month. Dike has been back at training with the club since last month to work his way back to fitness, and West Brom’s manager, Carlos Corberan, stated that that he would be an option in the squad by the end of the December if he keeps progressing well. The 23-year-old joined West Brom in December of 2021, but injuries have limited his playing time while in England.
- The Orlando Pride had a message for former Pride goalkeeper Erin McLeod after her farewell ceremony with the Canadian Women’s National Team during its friendly against Australia on Tuesday.
- The Chicago Fire have announced that Frank Klopas will return to the club to serve as head coach for the second time. Klopas was the head coach for the Fire from 2011 to 2013 and was the interim coach this past season after Ezra Hendrickson’s departure in May.
- Minnesota United announced that Sean McAuley will remain with the club as its interim head coach going into the 2024 season.
- Former Portland Timbers Head Coach Gio Savarese is reportedly in consideration for the open head coach position with the New England Revolution.
- The Seattle Sounders have reached an agreement with goalkeeper Stefan Frei on a new two-year contract that will keep him at the club through the 2025 season.
That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Junior Urso
The Bear returned unexpectedly in the middle of the season to bolster the Orlando midfield.
Midfielder Junior Urso joined Orlando City on Jan. 13, 2020 from Brazilian giants Corinthians on a multi-year deal. The Bear spent three years in purple before he and the club mutually agreed to part ways, terminating his contract for personal reasons on Nov. 10, 2022. Upon his return to Brazil, Urso joined Coritiba, but injuries limited him to just seven appearances. In a surprise move, Urso rejoined Orlando City on July 19, returning to the City Beautiful and accepting a backup role behind the Lions’ double pivot of Wilder Cartagena and Cesar Araujo.
Let’s take a look back at Urso’s 2023 campaign.
Urso made his return to the pitch for Orlando City on Aug. 20, following the club’s run in Leagues Cup. In the MLS regular season, Urso made nine appearances (two starts), logging 250 minutes. Urso did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting just three shots, none of which found the target. The Bear completed 78.3% of his 115 total pass attempts but did not record a key pass or a successful cross. Defensively, Urso tallied two interceptions, five tackles, and five clearances. He committed two fouls, drew two on the opposition, and was booked just once.
The Brazilian also appeared in all three of Orlando City’s playoff matches, all off the bench, totaling 98 minutes. He did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting three shots, one of which was on target. He completed 86.4% of his passes, including three key passes, but did not connect on a cross. Urso chipped in one tackle defensively, committed two fouls, suffered three, and was not booked in the postseason.
With a little less than a third of a season in purple and gold and serving primarily as a reserve player, Urso’s best match was his regular-season appearance on the road against Nashville SC on Oct. 4. The Bear came on for Facundo Torres in the 72nd minute and did what fans have always expected of him, which is to frustrate the living hell out of the opponent. Urso made sure that Nashville knew that he had entered the game, winning countless throw-ins, allowing Orlando to walk away with its first road victory at Nashville. Urso also recorded a shot in the match, which was the Lions’ only attempt other than Duncan McGuire’s goal, although it was perhaps a bit generous to call it a shot attempt. He passed at a 72.2% rate and recorded a tackle and a clearance and did his job helping the Lions see out a tight victory.
2023 Final Grade
As Urso came up short of the minimum total of 450 minutes played to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. While it was a surreal experience just to see the Bear back on the pitch for Orlando City after his sudden departure, a delayed return to the pitch due to a lingering knock and the play of the midfielders in front of him on the depth chart limited his ability to leave his mark on the season. However, it’s difficult to put a grade on the experience he brought to the squad.
Orlando City has yet to announce its end-of-season roster decisions as of this writing, but with Wilder Cartagena’s loan spell expired, the Lions would be wise to pick up Urso’s contract option for the 2024 season. If that happens, he would likely take up the No. 8 role with Araujo playing the No. 6 in Orlando’s double pivot (assuming Oscar Pareja also returns). Urso could split time at the No. 8 if Orlando adds a new starting No. 10, because in that case, Mauricio Pereyra might see some time in that spot. If a permanent transfer or loan extension for Cartagena is secured, Urso provides value off the bench, although he’s a bit pricey for a backup at $360,000.
Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)
Orlando City Parts Ways with Captain Mauricio Pereyra
2023 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Emily Madril
PawedCast Episode 391: Orlando City Off-Season Roster Predictions
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